EMPRESS OF x LINA MICHAL, SHOT BY NIKA DE CARLO FOR SUPERHERO MAGAZINE

See the full set of shots in this interview with Superhero Magazine, and read below for some backstory to this sartorial collaboration.



Expectations of Female Friendship

It can be an intimidating thing, realizing that you're dating someone who's ex-girlfriend is cool, gorgeous, funny, talented and successful. Which is what happened to me when I moved to New York in 2013 from tiny Sweden. I was new in town and too broke to fly home for the holidays, so I spent most of the days at sad Christmas parties in Brooklyn with unfamiliar faces. Three days before Christmas I met this incredible guy, he was a kind-eyed musician, and we quickly started dating. An early gift for me, yay!

I soon learned that he was good friends with his previous girlfriend, who at the time lived just around the corner from me. I remember those first couple of weeks wondering if I was passing her on the street without knowing. I’m not a very jealous person, so it didn’t bother me that they were friends and hung out. If anything I thought it showed incredible maturity, being able to think of your relationships as nuanced like that. But then something happened. I googled her. Turned out she was none other than musical wonder child Empress Of.

You've probably heard her on Blood Orange's latest album, or perhaps while watching an episode of Transparent or maybe you saw her perform on the Sydney Opera house stage? Yeah... she's impressive! And then, like clockwork, I would compare the two of us, always seeming to fall a little short next to her. What was this feeling? Was this jealousy? It sucked! I didn’t like it one bit, and I didn’t like the person I seemed to be, caught in destructive feelings like that. So I sat myself down and tried to find the reason for why someone else’s success seemed to make me uncomfortable, and how I could change my mindset to something less constricting. I felt stuck in a toxic box. It made me think about how we are spoon fed this idea that as a woman you are expected to dislike your boyfriends ex, or in her case -his new girlfriend. Like the two of you would somehow be automatic enemies in a way, like it would be natural? The thought made me feel like I had been programmed against my will and the thing was, I really had nothing against her! In fact, I loved all the things she was doing, her music, her humour, how she was breaking cardboard stereotypes about Latina women. Had I never met her ex I’d probably be a fan already. It was like an aha-moment, once the source of that sour feeling was found. It was the silly idea that we were supposed to dislike each other. And I think at that point we both kinda felt like, meh, screw society and it’s stupid expectations of female friendship, sisterhood is so much bigger than that.

And that opened a door to exchanging ideas and collaborating and creating something together. We realized that we were both really into the other's work and vibe, and we started talking about collaborating. We ended up fusing the style of a project I was working on at the time with a characteristic Empress Of look to create a custom outfit for her summer tour in 2016. The iridescent fabrics I'd used reminded her of deep water fish (in a good way!), and we decided to use it to create a tee, skirt and transparent tulle bomber. We made it so that she would be able to mix and match it with her other outfits later on too (sustainability, am I right?). Lorely premiered the outfit on the Pitchfork main stage at Primavera Festival in Barcelona that year.

Before handing over the outfit to Lorely who was about to go on tour, we went through the archives of my designs, chose the ones we liked the most and then documented everything with the help of Nika De Carlo. I'd met her at a zine launch party and fallen in love with her cinematic style photography. The three of us met up at her crazy Victorian house in Bushwick, full of nooks and crannies (and roommates) and she captured the collaboration beautifully in the morning light.
 

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